There is currently a shortage of social workers in Canada. At the same time, there is a growing demand for social workers across all the provinces.
With an influx of immigrants underway, it's likely that the demand for social workers will surge. They're needed in schools, correctional facilities, and hospitals. That's all in addition to welfare agencies and organizations.
Social workers help to shape a better and stronger nation. But becoming a social worker is not for the faint of heart.
The job entails helping people affected by poverty, limited resources, and societal issues. The role requires a person to possess certain qualities to handle these issues.
What exactly are these traits and qualities? Do you have what it takes to be an effective and successful social worker?
In this article, we'll explore the top 7 social worker qualities and traits. Let's get started!
There is a stark difference between sympathy and empathy. To be a social worker, you need to have empathy for every case that comes across your desk.
Empathy is not about making yourself feel the same way as your clients. It's about recognizing their pain and working to help them overcome it.
Empathy does entail that you vicariously experience what your clients feel and experience. Most people who go into social work are empathetic by nature. But the best social workers are those who get past what they're feeling and focus on the client.
2. Good Listener
A large part of empathy is being a good listener. You can't have compassion for your clients if you don't actively listen to them.
Good listening skills are among the top social worker qualities. Along with listening skills, social workers should know how to read body language, as well.
Every client has circumstances and situations that are unique to them. Of course, you'll often come across clients with cases that all sound similar. But you have to treat each client individually regardless of how many times you've heard their story.
Being a good listener is the foundation of trust between you and the clients. If clients feel that you aren't listening to them, they won't open up to you. And when this happens, it will be harder to help them resolve their issues.
Passion is one of the most important characteristics of a social worker. The best social workers are those whose desire to help people never fades. No matter how burnt out they feel from the stresses of the job.
Clients won't respect or trust you if they feel you're indifferent. Nobody wants to feel like a burden, especially those in need of social services.
You don't have to show zest at every meeting (unless that's your natural personality). But it's important that you maintain a consistency of empathy and passion in front of every client.
Making your clients feel relaxed around you is another way you can build trust with them. To do that, you should be yourself while maintaining a level of professionalism. This can be difficult, but it's a balance that the best social workers possess.
Your clients will respect you more if you're not afraid to show your personality. Of course, it's easy to overdo this, but it is possible to be yourself in a professional setting.
There is a fine line to tread when making jokes, for example. Some clients may find a joke funny, while others may not. A good social worker is someone who recognizes who can handle humour from those who are more sensitive to it.
If you can make any client laugh or smile, you've already achieved a great level of trust.
5. Emotional Detachment
You'll build working relationships with your clients. But it's important to remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish in each case.
Some social workers feel that their work is never fully accomplished. Those who feel this are often the ones who become emotionally invested in their clients.
Becoming a social worker means accepting that you may not be able to help everybody. You have to be empathetic all while remaining somewhat detached emotionally. It's not an easy balance to maintain.
To help you better cope with this, set boundaries. Keep your work separate from your personal life. And while at work, focus on reaching smaller and more realistic milestones.
To help you prioritize and reach your milestones, staying organized is key.
There will be times where you're working on multiple cases at once. Employers may ask you to take on new clients. You'll often feel like you're going from one case to the next with no breaks in your schedule.
Not to mention, all that paperwork...
By staying organized, you'll know what your clients need and the progress they're making. You'll spend less time shuffling through paperwork at the beginning of meetings. And in the end, you'll be able to conduct more meaningful meetings with each client.
7. Productive & Relaxed
Some days as a social worker will be much more stressful than others. Other days, you may have to come to terms with some harsh realities.
You may feel tempted to bring your work home with you. But you should always strive to leave your work at the office.
The more productive you are during the day, the more you can enjoy yourself at home. You need the time away from the office to decompress from the difficulties of the job. The more rested you are, the better you'll perform and less burnt out you'll feel.
Becoming a Social Worker in Canada
Social work is an immensely rewarding field, but by no means is it easy. But with these 7 personality traits, you'll be well on your way to becoming a social worker.
If you're considering doing social work in Ontario, check out our job search tool. OASW is here to help you get started on your path as a social worker!